"Tag (Deluxe Edition)" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by BOOM! Studios
Originally published as Tag #1 - #3
Written by Keith Giffen with Mike Leib
Illustrated by Kody Chamberlain, Chee, and Ron Lim
2006, 112 Pages
Graphic novel published on October 1st, 2014
Another zombie comic?! Yes! Tag comes from the mind of Keith Giffen and tries out a different take on the undead. Instead of a massive zombie apocalypse, Tag is much more personal. The virus is passed on from one person to another through the deadliest game of tag in the world. Once you're no longer "it," you revert back to normal. All of the decay and rigor mortis is gone in an instant and the person you tagged starts to decompose...that is, until they tag someone else.
It's not as easy as a basic game though. The next person is marked. There's a reason for this that isn't entirely explained within the comic, but it's not all that necessary. We don't know where this started or why. The person that the newly undead must tag is someone that has wronged them. Maybe there's a bully from high school or some guy you ripped off, but either way they had it coming. There's a personal connection to the target and it's not a friendly one. Instead, it almost gives you a reason to pass the virus on.
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Then there's Mitch. He's the latest person to get tagged and he's kind of an asshole. He narrates the book and is a completely unlikeable guy. If anyone deserved to be tagged, it's him. The story ends up providing Mitch with an interesting perspective on his life. It's like he realizes that his time on this planet has amounted to next to nothing and he's been a total douchebag. Unlike most horror stories, I have no interest in seeing the main character survive. The world would be a better place if he just rotted away.
Joining Mitch on this journey to death's door is his on-again, off-again girlfriend Izumi. What makes this whole situation awkward is that they were moments away from breaking up when Mitch was tagged. Now she feels like she has some sort of obligation to help him see this through. She takes all of the punishment that Mitch throws at her to the point where I felt sorry for the poor woman. It's not as if he's holding her hostage. He is a shuffling corpse after all.
Giffen goes into great detail explaining the process of Mitch's decomposition. He points out things that you don't really think of when it comes to zombies in general. I guess that's because the undead are rarely intelligent beings. Mitch doesn't breath. He only does so when he needs to talk which results in a very stilted speech pattern, punctuated by his gasps for air.
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Kody Chamberlain's artwork is a little rough, giving Tag a sketch-like look. This might have been solved with a good inker that could give his pencils some more definition. Chamberlain handles the first half of the book and Chee takes over for the rest. Chee provides a bit more detail to the book, which is fitting as Mitch starts to decay. You can see his body bloating and his skin beginning to fall apart as he slowly turns into a monster.
Also included in this deluxe edition is the three-part Dead Meat story, also written by Giffen. It follows a covert ops soldier who is turned into a zombie and takes the fight home, looking for vengeance against the folks that gave him his orders. It's a quick read that shows civilization crumbling as the narrator's mind and body start to give out. Dead Meat is a good companion to Tag.
Tag is an interesting morality tale that's part The Ring and part Stephen King's Thinner. It goes for a closer, more personal take on zombies instead of creating a shuffling horde of the undead. The main character is tough to sympathize with, which makes the story a bit challenging. Mitch doesn't deserve a second chance at life and a brush with death isn't going to redeem him in the eyes of the reader or anyone else for that matter.